Written by 8:56 am News

What’s a Warranty Worth?

How much does a warranty influence your purchase decisions? Steven Stone looks at what a warranty really means. In some cases, it doesn’t mean too much…


Recently I took several Hunter Douglas folding blinds to a
local dealer for what I thought would be warranty repair. When my wife picked
up the blinds she was presented with a bill for over $150 for three blinds, all
of which had a “lifetime” warranty.

One of the reasons I had originally purchased Hunter Douglas
blinds was because they were made in the US and had a lifetime warranty. But
times change…

Three years ago I had some Hunter Douglas blinds with similar
issues (broken or twisted cords inside the blind) repaired by Hunter Douglas at
their factory for free. So what changed? Back then I was allowed to take the
blinds directly to the factory in Denver, but recently I was required to tender
them via a dealer. Am I going to call Hunter Douglas and complain vociferously?
You Betcha! Will I ever buy another Hunter Douglas shade? That’s highly

So how does this apply to audio gear? When a manufacturer
offers a warranty on a new product it tells the consumer that the maker expects
the product to function for AT LEAST the warranty period. It also gives the
consumer an idea of how reliable a manufacturer expects that piece of gear to

The more expensive a component is, the more complete and
long-term you would expect the warranty to be. Conversely, inexpensive gear
usually has a shorter warranty. Personal audio products sometimes have
warranties as brief as 90 days. Usually refurbished products also have shorter
warranty periods than brand new ones. It can be edifying to compare the new and
refurb warranties – if they are identical it shows the manufacturer has
complete faith in their refurb department.

Obviously an “ironclad” warranty from a firm that is no longer
in business doesn’t help the consumer much. Smaller companies (like many
high-end audio firms) are less likely to be around in 10 years (let alone have
parts for older products) than large conglomerates. But smaller companies are
also more likely to bend their rules and go that extra mile to find an odd part
and take care of an arcane issue than most big firms.

This still doesn’t answer the primary question – what is a
warranty worth? Independent warranty firms such as Square Trade, think they
know what a warranty is worth, just go to their website and they’ll make you an
offer. And for pricy portable items, such as iPads and smart-phones,
third-party warranties are a reasonable option for many consumers.

come to the conclusion that warranties are only as good as the company itself. Apple
delivers excellent service while their products are under warranty. But once an
Apple product is no longer covered by Apple Care, repairs become both expensive
and inconvenient. The message from Apple is “we only care about new products.”

Some larger audio firms have a similar attitude. If it breaks
during the first couple of days after you get a new component, you’re covered,
sometimes even for an immediate replacement. Other firms require you to return
the broken unit to their central facility THEN they decide whether to repair or
replace. In a worst-case scenario a consumer could buy a new component, have it
fail during the first 24 hours, and be compelled by the manufacturer to return
it to the factory (instead of merely exchanging it for a new working unit) and
then wait weeks for the repair to be completed before the unit is returned. That

So what’s a consumer to do? Check a manufacturer’s warranty
policies before you buy a product. Also ask the retailer how they handle DOA or
within 48 hours of delivery repairs.

And last of all, when a manufacturer offers a “lifetime”
warranty find out whose lifetime they mean. In the case of Hunter Douglas that
lifetime had the longevity of a firefly, which is a shame because it used to
be worth something…



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